Tuesday, May 25, 2021


My husband is one of the most easygoing, untroubled men in the universe. Few things worry him or upset him or cause him to experience a moment’s anxiety. In fact, if you were to x-ray his brain to see what he is thinking about at any given moment, you would find the equivalent of an empty speech bubble. This is something I have always envied, since a scan of my brain would reveal a flock of panic-stricken loony birds.

Recently, though, something happened that shook him to his core. The crisis occurred just a couple weeks ago, triggered by the weekly Hearts game that he and his card buddies had just started up again after a year of social distancing. My husband left the house happily, eager to return to a game that he had played every Wednesday evening for the last thirty-some years. 

When he returned home a few hours later, though, I could tell something was wrong. He looked shaken, and he collapsed in a chair across from me, eyes unfocused.

Alarmed, I paused Firefly Lane, despite the fact that Tully was in the middle of proposing to Max.

“You okay, Hon?” 

He didn’t answer. 

“Ohmigod. Did someone—” (This is the kind of question that springs to mind when a card game has been going on for thirty-some years.) 

“No. No.” 

“Then what?“ 

He looked at me. “They want to change the time of the game.” 

“That’s it?”


“But you’ve done that a couple times before. First, because Steve kept falling asleep with his eyes open. And then because Rob started getting cranky after 9:30 if he hadn’t had a bowel movement that day. And later, because after a certain number of hands, Frank wasn’t able to track whether he was supposed to be passing left, right, or across and you were afraid you might have to kill him.”

“This is different.” 


“They want to start playing in the afternoon.” 


The unspoken hovered between us. Because it is a true fact that men who play cards in the afternoon are retired, between jobs, or… 

My husband looked at me sadly. “I’m officially old, Hon.” 

I leaped forward and grabbed his shoulders. “Now you listen to me. First of all, you are NOT old. You’re lots younger than the other Hearts guys. And second of all, what’s the big deal? Why shouldn’t you play in the afternoon? You’ve cut down your office hours, and if you play in the afternoon, you'll have more time at night to start chipping away at the twenty-some Walking Dead episodes that are still backed up on the DVR."

He nodded slowly. "I guess."

"Plus, I’ll bet some of the other Hearts guys are ROMEOs, which you definitely are not.” 


Retired Old Men Eating Out. The ones who meet every morning at Continental or some other deli for breakfast. My mom says some of her friends like to play mah-jongg at a nearby table just so they can eavesdrop and find out if one of the guys has suddenly become available.” 

My husband took a breath. “So I shouldn’t worry?” 

“No, you should not. You are not old. And you will not be old until you stop bouncing up and down on the couch and giggling every time you see a commercial for the new Loki series on Disney Plus.” 

He kissed me, relieved. And the next Wednesday, he walked out the door, head held high, to play cards at 2:00 in the afternoon. 

He returned about 30 minutes later. 

“What happened?” I asked.  

He closed his eyes. “Two of the guys forgot we were switching to afternoons. We had to cancel the game."

I tried to figure out how to put a positive spin on all this. But then I shrugged. 

“Sorry, hon. I got nothing.” 

And in case you’re wondering, yes, this is a true story. So if you know anyone who wants to start up a new Hearts game, or needs an extra player or an occasional replacement, PLEASE have them contact my husband as soon as possible. 

As long as it's a game where everyone can stay up past 9.